Keeping Workers Safe in the Heat

Following one of the coldest, wettest winters on record, we’ve just enjoyed an extended May heatwave with record temperatures of up to 29°C in some places!

As summer approaches and the numbers of seasonal and outdoor workers increase, we take a look at the risks, rules, rights and responsibilities related to keeping outdoor workers safe when the temperature rises.

Who is most at risk?

All those working outside in hot, sunny conditions are at risk from the heat to some degree. Those at high risk are workers in manual roles such as construction workers, engineers, quarrying professionals, utility providers and seasonal workers in the agricultural industry.

Factors such as age, build, pregnancy, illness and certain kinds of medication can all have a significant impact on the risks associated with heat stress. In addition, when Ramadan falls during the spring and summer months, those fasting are at increased risk from dehydration and exhaustion.

The risks of higher temperatures

Working in hot temperatures, whether inside or out, comes with the risk of heat stress. In turn, heat stress manifests itself in a number of symptoms. These include:

  • Sunburn
  • Dehydration
  • Lethargy
  • Fatigue
  • Exhaustion
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Convulsions
  • Fainting
  • Dizziness
  • Respiratory problems
  • Increased risk of trips and falls
  • Heat stroke

These symptoms can range in severity from the uncomfortable to the life-threatening. In addition, hotter weather can also increase the risk of allergies flaring up.

The rules, laws and recommendations on maximum working temperatures

Currently, there is no legal maximum temperature for working outdoors. However, those working outside do have some protection in the form of the UK Health & Safety regulations.

All employers have a duty of care and are responsible for ensuring that their workforce do not have to work in unsafe or unhealthy conditions.

So how hot is too hot?

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has put forward a suggested recommendation of 27°C as the maximum safe working temperature for manual workers. Whilst not illegal, forcing employees to work in extreme conditions well beyond this temperature could constitute a breach of this duty of care.

Employee responsibilities and guidelines

Ultimately, employers need to take their duty of care seriously. During the summer months, temperatures should be an integral aspect of any workplace risk assessment.

To keep the workforce safe and reduce the risks associated with working in the heat, employers should consider taking the following actions when the temperature rises:

  • Training managers, supervisors and employees on recognising the risks and symptoms of heat stress
  • Shortening working hours, or adjusting shift/working patterns to cooler times of the day
  • Providing a cool, shady area for worker breaks
  • Where possible, rotating workers between sunny and shady areas
  • Increasing the number and/or length of breaks workers are entitled to
  • Providing a plentiful supply of cool drinking water at all times
  • Relaxing rules on mandatory dress codes and uniforms and providing appropriate work-wear
  • Ensuring that there is a trained first aider available on site at all times and that workers have access to all their prescribed medications
  • Encouraging employees to wear hats and high factor sun cream on-site

Quality recruitment support from Prestige

At Prestige, we’re 100% committed to creating a safe, positive and fair working environment for the benefit of our candidates, offering an ethical, professional service that protects everyone. This extends to the employers we work with. We take steps to ensure that all the businesses we work with share our values when it comes to worker safety.

Additional information about the way we work, our industry accreditations, awards and association memberships can be found at Alternatively, for more about how we can help your organisation source the right talent your business needs, please get in touch with your local office today.

Posted: Thu 31 May 2018
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